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The EC$700 million airport has missed several completion deadlines since 2011. (Photo: Friends of Argyle Int' Airport/Facebook)
The EC$700 million airport has missed several completion deadlines since 2011. (Photo: Friends of Argyle Int’ Airport/Facebook)
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The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

Re: Venezuela has contributed $228m to SVG’s $700m airport — PM Gonsalves.  I think Gonsalves has excelled himself in the statements he has made here about Venezuela.

Exaggerations told, if they mislead or deceive, are the same as telling lies, so I will add some of these statements to Gonsalves list of lies.

Gonsalves said the $50 million loan from PetroCaribe with a two per cent interest rate is almost like a grant. Well, if he believes that, that is why we are so deep in the mire. It is nothing like a grant, a grant doesn’t charge interest and doesn’t have to be repaid. How can a loan that has to be paid back, every cent with interest, be like a grant? More of a stupid statement by a minister of finance will not be found anywhere in the Caribbean, a true statement of a fiscal dunce. If that amount is repaid at the end of 20 years with compound interest, it will be approaching $80 million that we have to repay.

Whatever they do or don’t do for us, PetroCaribe loans, a few bits of plant and machinery totaling $10 million or so, none of that affects the fact that they promised to pay the Cubans wages and didn’t, leaving us with a bill of $34 million dollars to pay. They have never explained that, so we have no way of knowing if the whole matter was a lie on the part of Gonsalves or if they bilked paying us. One thing for sure, Gonsalves told us in the past that there was no written agreement, it was a promise. Well as the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, as a trained solicitor, that further points to me that he is a fiscal dunce. He should never have laid that before the Vincentian people as if it was fact that the Venezuelans were paying the Cubans wages. It was misleading of the people, what he would claim in court as hearsay. He thought he heard someone say it, or did hear someone say it, but according to him, it was not contractual. Well buddy boy, a verbal contract can be as binding as a written contract; as a lawyer you should well know that. But as a lawyer you also should have taken more care of the clients’ money. We the citizens are the clients. It would appear as if you just cost us $34 million dollars through mal legal advice and failure to properly secure our money. Did you lose us a further $34 million in some kind of ULP investment scheme, namely Argyle International Airport? Trying now to just add that to the cost of the airport just is not good enough, that is money lost, and it’s probably Gonsalves’ very own fault.

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Gonsalves went on to say that another $25 million with a 1 per cent interest rate went from PetroCaribe to the airport, and again he thinks that is as good as grant money. It is not, it’s a loan, it has to be paid back, it’s nothing like a grant, and it’s nothing like a gift. Stop fooling yourself, Mr. Gonsalves, because you can no longer fool us. You may be able to fool some of your ignorant central committee followers, some of the uneducated, the blind and some of the deaf, but not us.

Then Gonsalves skates over the fact that we have been told every year since 2009 that the airport will finished next year. It’s like saying mañana por la mañana, or the tomorrow that never comes — la mañana que nunca llega.

The Cubans have taken a three-year project and will have taken ten years to complete it by the time they have finished. Regardless of what Gonsalves says, they have given us nothing for nothing. We have been paying them a huge amount of money every month, many times more than the Cuban government actually paid the Cuban workers here. The workers have been paid peanuts in relation to what we paid the Cuban government. So all the old, long talk about “they did studies”, “plans drawings, etc” for nothing, they did nothing of the sort, whatever we paid the Cuban government, paid for everything. We must also take into account that we have paid them three times more than we should have, because of the time they took to build a three-year project: ten years.

When you consider the real cost of this project, the land was taken from the landowners at Argyle seven years ago; to date 150 of them remain unpaid. Kingstown traders are owed approaching a 100 million; 60 million for almost seven years remains unpaid. The people’s NIS fund has been encouraged, if not ordered, to be invested in the airport; that money being repaid must be in serious doubt. The airport project cost us our national bank, we had to sell that to pay off government debts. If we were not building the airport, the government would have been able to afford to pay its debts. The government has sold off most of the lands of Bequia to foreigners, a loss to Bequians future family and population expansion. The loss of our agriculture industry, due to underfunding and ineptitude. The country has debts inflated from $340 million in 2001, now galloping towards $2 billion — yes billions in 2015. Gonsalves has flown around the world several times looking to scrounge and beg for funds for the airport, the cost must be astronomical. We owe PetroCaribe hundreds of millions of dollars, which our children and grandchildren will never be able to repay.

Venezuela has acted as our banker, not as a member of a coalition of the willing, a silly saying that confused the Vincentian people into believing that other countries were paying for our airport. Venezuela expect to be repaid. Will they be? I hope so, because the Venezuelan people do not deserve to starve whilst we spend their money in the name of solidarity and friendship. Spending their money in this way is immoral on the part of the Venezuelan government, also on the part of the Vincentian government.

What the Venezuelans have not done is contributed the $228 million, it’s more like $12 million and loans of $216 million. It really is not good enough, rearranging words to make the Venezuelan government look like heroes; they are not.

At Argyle airport, the Cubans have acted as our contractor, but with no penalty clauses for delay or bad workmanship. Most of the work done by them could have been done by Vincentians.

Between the Venezuelans and the Cubans, they have managed to bankrupt SVG, but could not do such without the one-way friendship and solidarity offered them by PM Gonsalves, the Minister of Finance, and minister of almost, but not quite, everything else. Jack of all ministries, but master of …

Figures do not lie, but liars do.

Five years you say comrade, perhaps we should have a party on the strength of that. The lies and embroidery work must stop, comrade. Let’s hope that the five years is at least a word of truth.

Peter Binose

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

3 replies on “Gonsalves misrepresents Venezuela’s input into Argyle airport”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    We need a photo essay of our tourism sites, to supplement what you, I, and others have written, to show people the poor shape they are in on the eve of the airport’s completion.

    I will be overseas for some months.

    Peter, can you do this, using a high resolution stand-alone camera, or get someone to do it for you and write the commentary to accompany it.

    This woudl be a great public service which would would provide visual proof how far we are ready to accept hoards of international tourists.

  2. Dear David, I am the wrong person to ask, I am working on the research for my articles 8 hours a day.

    I also frequently travel and have three homes to upkeep and attend to. I also still act as a consultant for several Internationa Companies. I have had to stop my little sortes into Venezuela because it is now so dangerous that foreigners continually risk muggings at gun point wherever they go or stay. If you think its bad in SVG, crime now rules in Venezuela.

    I work alone David and cannot trust or rely on anyone knowing who I am or where to find me at any moment in time.

    We want more than a photo story, it is said that a photo is worth a thousand words. What we need are regular video’s, because a video can be worth 10,000 words. But the commentry with the video could not come from me and I would have little or no time at all to become involved in such a nobel cause.

    Remember David there has been a reward offered for my whereabouts of $250K, and seeing what has happened to others, that could well mean dead or alive.

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